If you stopped playing Pokemon Go after the initial hype died down or if you never picked it up, there are a lot of exciting features that have helped transform it into a more robust game than you probably realize.
From PVP to trading and even in-game effects caused by the weather in the real world around you, Niantic has turned Pokemon Go into everything envisioned in the original announcement trailer, and in some ways even exceeded it.
Here are a few of the most exciting features to come to Pokemon Go in the last two and a half years:
In Summer 2018, Pokemon Go added its first true social feature: friend lists! Every player has their own friend code that you can share with other players. You can add up to 200 friends to your friend list.
Once you’ve exchanged codes and accepted a request, you’ll be able to see your friend’s most recently caught Pokemon, and you can also see stats including how many battles they’ve won, how far they’ve walked in the game, and how many Pokemon they’ve caught in total.
Once you’ve added a friend, you’ll be able to achieve one of four Friendship Levels: Good Friend, Great Friend, Ultra Friend, and Best Friend. Raising your friendship level will offer various bonuses, including reduced Stardust costs for trades, extra damage during gym battles alongside a friend, and additional Premiere Balls during raids alongside a friend.
You can increase your friendship level with a particular friend by sending gifts (see below), trading, or participating in gym battles or raid battles together. Your friendship level can only increase once per day per friend, and this is how long it takes to achieve each level:
PokeStops will now occasionally drop Gifts, which you can send to friends on your list. Gifts will include a “postcard” from the PokeStop where you picked up the gift, as well as a various items. Gifts can also contain a special egg containing some rare Pokemon.
Gifts can also contain bonus Stardust, and you can delete unsent gifts from your inventory. You’ll also receive 200 XP for each gift you send a friend!
Along with friends, Pokemon Go also added one of its most-requested features since launch: trading! You can only trade with players on your friends list, and you have to be within 200 meters of each other to trade.
Players receive candy bonuses depending on the original catch location of the Pokemon being traded. If the Pokemon were caught far apart, you’ll receive extra candy for the Pokemon you’re trading.
Finally, the HP and CP of Pokemon traded to friends will be reset, resulting in random new stats for the Pokemon you receive. The range of possible HP and CP outcomes can be extremely wide or extremely narrow depending on your friendship levels, with Best Friends much more likely to receive stronger Pokemon.
PVP Trainer Battles
Following trading, Pokemon Go added its other most requested feature: PVP Trainer Battles.
Starting a trainer battle is as simple as scanning a Battle Code. In the Nearby menu in the lower right corner of the screen (which normally shows Pokemon and Raids in your area), a new Battle tab allows you to view a Battle Code, which is essentially a QR code featuring your trainer’s avatar.
A player standing close to you can scan your code (or you can scan theirs) in order to initiate a battle. This means you’ll need to be standing directly next to anyone you’re hoping to battle, with one major exception: you’ll be able to battle against your Ultra or Best Friends remotely over the internet.
Pokemon Go Trainer Battles are 1 v. 1, and each player uses a team of three Pokemon. A set of Pokemon will be recommended to you and can be replaced manually, or you can select from one of your pre-made Battle Parties prepared ahead of time.
Before you can choose your team of Pokemon, you’ll need to decide which League you want to battle in. Trainer Battles will let you decide between three Leagues:
Once the battle begins, it’ll be familiar to anyone who’s tried Raid or Gym battles in the past. You’ll tap to use your Pokemon’s Fast Move, which will build up energy and eventually allow you to use a more powerful Charge Move. In battle, you’ll be able to choose which Charge Move you want to use once you’ve built up enough energy, then you’ll have an additional few seconds to charge it up even more.
During that window, the opposing player will have the option to use a Protect Shield. Each player only gets two of these to use for the entire battle, so you’ll need to be careful in deciding which Pokemon and which attacks to use them against.
At the end of a battle, both players will receive prizes regardless of whether they win or lose, which include the possibility of Stardust or Sinnoh Stones, which allow you to evolve some Generation 4 Pokemon. You can earn these rewards three times per day by battling other players. Battling against a player is also a new option for your once-per-day friendship increase.
Players can also train by fighting against AI-controlled versions of the three Team Leaders (Blanche, Candela, and Spark), which are also accessible via the Battle tab in the Nearby menu. Once per day, players can also earn rewards from this method of training (with the same potential prizes as battles against real players).
Looking at the main screen when you boot up Pokemon Go, the logo in the top right represents the current weather. Weather in Pokemon Go is dynamic and corresponds with the actual real-world weather around you, and it changes every hour.
Eight weather states are currently available in Pokemon Go: rain, wind, snow, fog, sun (daytime), clear (nighttime), cloudy, and partly cloudy.
The in-game weather will affect the Pokemon spawns around you, with certain types more likely to appear in certain conditions and the attack power of certain moves boosted during battles.
Weather has been one of the most significant changes to Go since it launched, completely changing what appears around you and potentially making your neighborhood have different Pokemon day to day. If you could only find Pidgey, Rattata, and Zubat in your house back at launch, you might be surprised by how diverse the Pokemon population has become.
Field Research and Special Research
Back on the main screen, the pair of binoculars in the bottom right are how you access Research.
There are two types of research. First, “field” research is something you can complete multiple times per day. These are basic tasks (hatch an egg, catch 10 Pokemon, etc.) that you’ll generally complete during typical play anyway. You can obtain new tasks by spinning any PokeStop, and you can hold up to three at a time (or trash the ones you don’t want). The tasks will either give you items or an encounter with a Pokemon as a reward, with better rewards for harder tasks.
Once per day, the first research task you complete will give you a daily stamp. For every seven stamps you get, you’ll have the chance to open a Research Breakthrough Box, which awards you with an encounter with a rare or legendary Pokemon. Each month gets a different Pokemon, so if you get your seventh stamp on October 31, you’ll get October's Pokemon if you open the box immediately, or November's if you wait until the next day.